Esther Rosenfield’s review published on Letterboxd:
The real battle royale this summer isn't between Batman and Superman, or between Captain America and Iron Man, or between the X-Men and the purple guy. It's over the soul of blockbuster cinema. Marvel has clearly staked its claim, and DC announced its own perspective rather loudly a few months ago. The latter made a film which, while admittedly convoluted, was at least a stab at something grandiose and new. It didn't make logical sense, but it felt like it did. There was an emotional truth to every punch. The former studio doesn't make films so much as it engineers them on a factory line. They're designed to be CinemaSins-proof, but they come off more as automatons than anything else. Yes, Captain America: Civil War makes sense. It makes logical sense. But it doesn't make emotional sense. That's the side Marvel's taken for years. And they're winning.
In the age of CinemaSins, of IMDb Goofs, of a thousand voices screaming "I hope someone lost their job over THAT one" on Twitter, it's easy to see the appeal of this process. You make a film as un-nitpickable as possible in the hopes that people will focus on the rest of it. We're eight years and I don't even know how many films into the MCU, and they've long since forgotten about the "rest of it" part. Civil War is a flawless machine, but that's all it is. It sets its pieces, it moves them, it brings in new ones, takes some away, and for what? You half-expect Cap to shout, "NICE AD HOMINEM!" between punches. He's the dickwad libertarian on Reddit, complaining about "freedom of speech" after he's banned for saying the N-word too many times. He thinks emotions cloud Tony's judgement, but judgement without emotion isn't any more reliable. Too bad this movie has his name in it. They might have made an interesting point.
So they get the pieces into place, and there's a fight at the airport. Something to put in the trailer. But that fight isn't even the ending. For all intents and purposes, it might as well not even happen. Why is Ant-Man there? Why is Spider-Man there? Why is Hawkeye there? So that they can be there, and have a cool fight, and then be whisked away to refocus on what this movie is kind of supposed to be about. It's the lowest form of fanboy pandering, and I'm genuinely shocked that so many people are buying into it. Even for Marvel, this is low. At least Black Panther gets a complete arc. More than can be said for the aborted arcs of Scarlet Witch and Vision. But don't worry, I'm sure the next movie will finish the story, right? Fuck off.
And if this movie doesn't yank back the curtain on the essential hollowness of the MCU, then I don't know what will. Marvel's is the cinema of function, but not of meaning. Civil War is a $300 million progress check. It moves the pieces into place for the next game. But unlike the many other MCU films which did the same thing, Civil War doesn't bother to do anything else. It distracts you with a big fight, asks you to believe a "but my dead mom" rug-pull even more egregious than the one in Batman v Superman, throws in the big iconic shot from the comics, and then says, "Tune in next week to learn why any of this matters!" Hey fans, I've got bad news: They're never going to tell you. The MCU is a bottomless pit, and it's finally so deep down that it can't see daylight anymore.
edit: i can't believe i forgot about those fucking big-ass adobe premiere default-ass title cards what the FUCK
edit edit: I expanded on the ideas in this review in this article for Audiences Everywhere.